EXCELSIOR SPRINGS, Mo. – To Grain Valley football coach Jimmy Tucker, there was only one course of action to take after Friday’s 33-22 road loss to Excelsior Springs – or as he described it, “probably our worst performance of the year.”
“Oak Grove’s not going to feel sorry for us next week, so we’ve just got to try to fix … (our mistakes) and forget it and move on,” Tucker said after the Missouri River Valley Conference West Division defeat. “That’s all you can do.”
One issue the Eagles (3-4, 0-3 MRVC West) might want to address before facing Oak Grove is ball security. They committed four turnovers against Excelsior Springs – two fumbles and two interceptions.
At times, turnovers have been an issue for the Eagles, agreed Tucker and starting quarterback Kellen Holland. When they commit turnovers, a domino effect seems to ensue, according to Holland.
“It (committing turnovers) affects the way we play,” said Holland, who completed 13 of 31 passes for 251 yards and two touchdowns but also threw both interceptions.
Another issue might be run defense. Officially, Excelsior Springs (4-3, 2-1) amassed 396 yards and scored four touchdowns on 54 carries.
“I think, for the first time this year, we can say that we took care of business up front – and I think we kind of dominated up front,” Tigers coach Josh Buford said. “And then, obviously, we’ve got some special kids with the ball in their hands.”
However, the Tigers started scoring by passing, not running. Austin Creason’s 4-yard TD pass to Brandon Lane helped Excelsior Springs take a 7-0 lead with 3:39 left in the first quarter.
Holland’s 17-yard TD pass to Evan Velasquez helped tie it with 1:19 left in the first quarter.
Early in the second quarter, it appeared the Eagles would go ahead on another Holland-to-Velasquez pass play, when Holland connected with Velasquez on third-and-5 from the Grain Valley 34-yard line. Velasquez ripped off a run after the catch of 50-plus yards, only to lose the ball near the Excelsior Springs goal line. The ball went into the end zone, resulting in touchback for the Tigers, who staged an eight-play, 80-yard drive capped by Creason’s 3-yard TD run with 6:28 remaining.
“That was huge,” Tucker said. “That’s probably a 14-point swing there.”
Nick Masoner’s 60-yard TD run with 3:37 remaining helped the Tigers take a 19-7 halftime lead. During the first 2:58 of the fourth quarter, the Tigers stretched their lead to 33-7 on Creason’s 15-yard TD run and Masoner’s 66-yard TD run. Creason followed up both scores with an extra-point kick.
Holland then connected with Hunter Ramirez for a 52-yard TD pass and Ramirez booted the point after with 8:46 to play.
“I put it on his back shoulder and he caught it,” Holland said. “He makes a lot of plays.”
Backup quarterback Ben Andes’ 31-yard TD pass to Zack Ehlen and Ehlen’s two-point conversion pass with 2.3 seconds left completed the scoring.